Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sermon Notes January 18, 2009

The Scripture comes this morning from 1 Samuel 3:1-10, and it is the call of Samuel.

Whenever I get the chance to come back to Samuel's story I take a little extra time, because I know in some ways it is my own story. I think about how Samuel's mother had pleaded with God in the Temple to "open her womb". She was there crying and the temple priest accused her of being drunk, and to go home. She replied that she was simply crying out to God for help to have a child. When she had the child she dedicated the child to God's service.

My own mother, after I had been ordained, came to me that evening as we were celebrating the Ordination as a family that she and my dad had dedicated me to God's service when I was just born. This came as a surprise, but also as a culmination of what God had been doing in my life.

Like Samuel I had been dedicated to God before I even had knowledge of this. Samuel and I gave ourselves to God's service very early on. We read right there at the beginning of Chapter 3 that Samuel had ministered before the Lord under Eli, before God came calling in the night. I heard my call at age 5 to be in Camp Ministry. I have taken a long road around to get there, and still in process for this in several ways. I knew I needed to have Sacramental Rites to affirm the rest of the call to camp ministry, and I am still discerning where "Camp Ministry" will lead me.

Samuel's call morphed in many ways in the years to come as well. I am reminded that he was asked to 1) Speak Plainly [we see this in the very next passage 11-20 where Samuel tells Eli some very bad news about his house being discontinued in the priesthood] 2) Serve as God's Priest/King [mind you the people reject this, and call for a "real king" to which God responds that they have not rejected Samuel, only God, and yet God complies and helps select first Saul and then David] 3) Select a king for an apostate people 4) Remind the people that even in their unfaithfulness God is going to remain faithful to them.

Looking at the passage we are able to uncover more to the story of Eli and Samuel. We hear that Eli had sight problems, and we can imagine that Samuel was sleeping in the Temple center, and would come running whenever Eli called to help him go to the bathroom, to attend to late night supplicants before the Lord, or just to offer hospitality to a weary traveler to the Temple. So when a voice calls out to Samuel, we can imagine his haste in running to Eli's side. After the third time we might imagine that Samuel is a little frustrated and ready to pack it in. But, it is this third time that Eli finally figures it out - God is calling for Samuel, and he offers Samuel some advice about how to respond the next time the voice calls out.

We can imagine what might have been running through Eli's mind. Eli had been a Temple priest for a long time. He was the head honcho, and his sons were the next in line to take the priesthood. He had come from a long line of Levitical Priests, and here comes this upstart, Samuel. He isn't a Levite. His mother gave him to the Temple as part of her "tithe and offering" to God for giving her a child. He was just a little boy, somewhere about 5-12 years of age. We imagine that Eli had never heard from God because it took him so long to understand that it was God calling to Samuel, and the introduction that tells us "the word of the Lord was rare". And yet, Eli trusts in God's call and thinks that maybe God has something new in store for Israel.

So Samuel goes back to bed, and we can see him there on his palatte, expecting to hear the voice again, and wondering what it is that God might have him say or do. Samuel responds dutifully "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening". He spoke into the night just like he had been told, and yet if we look more closely things were not the same as they had been. Previously it had been a voice calling in the night to Samuel. This time, when Samuel is aware of who is calling him, God is standing there. This is a true vision, and it seems God waited until Samuel understood who was calling him.

We need to be listening for the voice of God calling out in the night. When we see the lord before us we need to be willing to risk whatever we have to go as God calls. This is part of the Visioning process for us at Ojai UMC. We have a lot of history, and it may be an upstart who comes along and tells us what it is that God has shown in a Vision. It may come from the one who has not been here long, or a dream that one of our long-time members has had that we need to listen more closely.

God is calling out for us to hear...our Vision is what God is calling to us to do....let us listen for the voice in the night.



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